Forensic psychologists are experts at the intersection of psychology and law. They often work directly with state police, corrections officers, and lawyers to conduct criminal investigations. As researchers, forensic psychologists research issues such as juvenile delinquency and criminal psychology.
For instance, Geoff McKee, a clinical professor in the department of neuropsychiatry at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, has evaluated more than 30 mothers throughout the nation who have been charged with killing one (or more) of their own children.
This phenomenon he deems as neonaticide, stating that it is one of the least-well-documented crimes in the nation. From his extensive research, he has found some common threads among those who commit this crime.
In 1994, Susan Smith of South Carolina was suspected of murdering her three-year-old and fourteen-month-old sons by strapping them in car seats and pushing the care into a lake. She was eventually convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
In 2010, another South Carolina woman, Shaquan Duley, was a 29-year-old unemployed mother of two. She was accused of suffocating her one-year-old and two-year-old children with her bare hands.
Although a state-appointed forensic psychologist said that Duley was suffering from a mental illness, the forensic psychologist was able to verify her competency to stand trial, and said that she knew what she was doing when she committed the murders. Duley was then sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Dr. Geoff McKee notes that often, women who commit neonaticide are victims of rape or incest, are harboring shame from having sex, are afraid of the consequences of birth, have no social support, or are hiding infidelity.
After earning his doctorate in psychology, becoming board-certified in forensic psychology, and working as the chief psychologist in various forensic psychology divisions, McKee published his book, “Why Mothers Kill: A Forensic Psychologist’s Casebook.”
Steps to Becoming a Forensic Psychologist in South Carolina
Once you’re ready to start your career as a forensic psychologist in South Carolina, you’ll begin by earning a license with the South Carolina Board of Examiners in Psychology.
There can be a lot of confusion on how to become a licensed forensic psychologist in South Carolina. To bypass that confusion, follow the detailed, simple, and step-by-step instructions here:
Step 1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
To take your first step toward a psychologist license in South Carolina, you’ll start by earning a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology. In your forensic psychology bachelor’s degree program, you will learn the fundamentals of psychology and law.
Bachelor’s degree programs in forensic psychology include, but are not limited to, degree program titles such as:
- Bachelor of Arts or Science (BA/BS) in Forensic Psychology
- BA or BS in Psychology – Forensic Psychology
- BA or BS in Criminal Justice – Forensic Psychology
- Dual Bachelor of Arts/Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology
Although each school is different, most colleges offer bachelor’s degree programs that include around 120 credits. These degree programs will consist of course requirements such as:
- General education – 60 credits
- Forensic psychology – 40 credits
- Electives – 20 credits
Courses related specifically to forensic psychology at the undergraduate level include course titles, such as:
- General Psychology
- Introduction to Criminal Justice
- Social Psychology
- Criminal Law
- Abnormal Psychology
- Ethics in Criminal Justice
- Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
After you finish your bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology, you can move on to earning your graduate degree in the field.
Step 2. Earn a Doctoral Degree in Forensic Psychology
Next, you’ll engage in advanced research and internships to develop expertise in forensic psychology, learning how to assess criminals, testify as an expert witness, and conduct original research.
Your master’s or doctoral program should be accredited by one of the following national or regional accreditation agencies:
- American Psychological Association
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Colleges and Schools
- Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
Earning a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
If you plan on first enrolling in a master’s degree in forensic psychology, you have a wide variety of degree options. Master’s degrees in forensic psychology include, but are not limited to, degrees such as:
- Master of Arts (MA) in Forensic Psychology
- Master of Science (MS) in Forensic Psychology
- MA or MS in Legal and Forensic Psychology
- MA or MS in Counseling and Forensic Psychology
- MA or MS in Criminal Justice – Forensic Psychology
- MA or MS in Psychoanalysis – Forensic Psychology
- MA or MS in Criminal and Investigative Psychology
- Dual MA or MS in Forensic Psychology / Juris Doctor (JD) in Law
Minimum admissions requirements vary from school to school. However, most master’s programs in forensic psychology have criteria such as:
- Hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited program
- Have basic psychology courses, such as psychology, statistics, and research methods
- Have a high grade point average (GPA)
Most forensic psychology master’s degree programs include 30 to 60 credits. These 30 to 60 credits include both in-class, theoretical courses and clinical, practical internships.
Although each school is different, most schools with a forensic psychology master’s degree program offer advanced forensic psychology courses, such as:
- Psychology and the Law
- Assessments in Criminal Law
- Assessments in Civil Law
- Research and Statistics
- Forensic Psychology Research Methods
- Corrections and Police Psychology
After you complete your courses, you will move on to completing your internship. To prepare you for your job as a forensic psychologist, you should strive to find an internship in a forensic setting, such as a local mental health hospital, juvenile delinquent center, victim therapy center, jail, or prison.
Some master’s programs let you choose between a final thesis and a final practicum. If you choose a thesis, you will write a comprehensive research paper on a forensic psychology topic. If you choose a practicum, you will complete another internship in a forensic setting.
Doctoral Degree Programs in Forensic Psychology
To be accepted for licensure, your doctoral degree must be accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). South Carolina’s APA-accredited doctoral program in psychology is located in Columbia, South Carolina.
Doctoral degrees in forensic psychology can include, but are not limited to, degrees such as:
- PhD or PsyD in Forensic Psychology
- PsyD or PhD in Clinical Forensic Psychology
- PhD or PsyD in Clinical-Community Psychology: Forensic Psychology
Doctoral programs, although they accept students with just bachelor’s degrees, tend to be highly competitive. This means that you will need to demonstrate outstanding competency to meet admissions requirements, which can include criteria such as:
- Have a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited institution
- Have a 3.5 GPA or higher
- Have outstanding letters of recommendation
- Have prior research/practical experience
Although each school is different, most doctoral programs include between 70 and 110 credits, which consists of courses, internships, and a dissertation.
To meet the requirements of the APA, your doctoral program must offer courses such as:
- Psychological Research Statistics
- Psychological Research Methods
- History and Systems of Psychology
- Personality Theory
- Learning and Cognition
- Psychological Ethical Issues
Along with these APA-requirements, your doctoral program will offer courses specific to forensic psychology, such as:
- Forensic Assessment and Prediction
- Ethical Issues in Forensic Psychology
- Neuropsychological Assessment
- Neuropsychological Assessment of Children
- Child Psychopathology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Pediatric Psychology
- Expert Witnesses (Law)
Next, you will move on to completing your internship, which will be conducted in a forensic setting, such as a jail, corrections facility, or rehabilitation center. APA-approved internship providers in South Carolina include providers such as:
- Charleston Consortium Psychology Internship Program – Charleston
- University of South Carolina Counseling and Human Development Center – Columbia
- Clemson University Counseling and Psychological Services – Clemson
- William Jennings Bryan Dorn Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center Mental Health Services – Columbia
Your final doctoral requirement is completing a dissertation. Once you write and defend your dissertation, you’ll receive your doctoral degree.
Step 3. Submit Preliminary Application and Supervision Contract to the South Carolina Board
It is vital that you start this next step as soon as possible, so that you can begin earning your post-doctoral supervision hours quickly.
To complete your preliminary application for a South Carolina license, you will need to submit the following documents and materials:
- Preliminary Application for Licensure
- Two photocopies of the application
- A curriculum vita
- Official transcripts (from doctoral program)
- $500 application fee (in the form of a money order, cashier’s check, or bank draft)
You can send all application materials to the Board’s mailing address, which is:
State of South Carolina
Board of Examiners in Psychology
P.O. Box 11329
Columbia, South Carolina 29211-1329
When the Board receives your application packet, the Board will mail you Formal Application materials, which include:
- A licensing information form
- An official application for licensure
- A pre-doctoral supervision form
- The Board’s postdoctoral supervision procedures
- A supervision contract
- A supervisor’s report form
- 3 professional reference forms
Of these materials, only one is of immediate concern: the supervision contract. Until the Board receives this supervised contract, you will not be able to earn any formal post-doctoral experience hours.
It is vital that you start this application process as soon as possible, so that you have time to complete the steps in this process that may be time consuming, such as:
- Your school mailing official transcripts
- You receiving the supervision contract from the Board
- You sending the supervision contract back to the Board
Once the Board receives your preliminary application and your supervision contract, you can start earning your official, supervised post-doctoral hours.
Step 4. Complete 12 Months of Supervised Post-Doctoral Experience
Once the Board approves of your supervision contract, you can begin your year-long post-doctoral experience.
You will want to earn this experience in a forensic setting, such as a jail, prison, correctional facility, juvenile rehabilitation center, or victim therapy center.
You can complete your forensic post-doctoral experience at any location—as long as the Board approves it in the supervision contract. South Carolina has one major post-doctoral fellowship program that is APA-accredited, which is:
- The William Jennings Bryan Down VA Medical Center Mental Health Service Line in Columbia
During this year of post-doctoral experience, you can work on two things:
- Finish submitting all Formal Application materials
- Begin studying for the national examination
Step 5. Pass the Examination of Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)
The EPPP is overseen by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). In order to sit for the EPPP, you must first contact the State Licensing Board (firstname.lastname@example.org) for permission. Once the Board grants you permission, you can complete the following steps:
This exam is given in five locations in South Carolina, including:
- Myrtle Beach
- Two locations in Columbia
This is a 225-question exam, which will consist of questions on various psychological domains. Questions may pertain to domains including, but not limited to, the ones listed here:
Biological Bases of Behavior
- Physiological psychology
- Comparative psychology
- Sensation and perception
Cognitive-Affective Bases of Psychology
Social Bases of Behavior
- Group processes
- Organizational and systems theory
- Personality theory
- Human development
- Abnormal psychology
Earn a score of 70% or higher to pass this exam. When you finish the exam, you will need to send your official examination scores to the Board in order to finish your formal application process.
Step 6. Pass the South Carolina Oral Examination
Once you have submitted all of your application materials, finished your post-doctoral experience, and passed the EPPP, you’ll be ready to take the South Carolina oral exam.
For this exam, the Board will question you on topics such as:
- Scope of practice
- Familiarity with professional ethics
- Familiarity with issues of jurisprudence
To study for this exam, you may want to study the South Carolina Board’s Policies, which include:
- Ethical Principles of Psychologists
- Psychology Practice Act
- Psychology Regulations
- Statement Regarding Medication
You will need to physically appear in front of the Board to take this exam. Once you pass this exam, the Board will give you your South Carolina psychologist license.
Step 7. Begin Your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in South Carolina
Once you’ve received your license, you can begin working as a licensed forensic psychologist. Forensic psychologists often apply for jobs such as:
- Forensic Clinician
- Forensic Psychologist – Juvenile Outpatient
- Expert Witness
- Forensic Psychologist – Child & Adolescent Services
- Licensed Clinician
- Juvenile Probation Counselor
- Forensic Mental Health Counselor
- Criminal Psychologist
South Carolina organizations and agencies that may look to hire forensic psychologists include, but are not limited to, organizations such as:
- South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice – York County
- South Carolina Department of Corrections – Bennettsville
- Anderson Detention Center – Anderson
- Charleston County Detention Center – Charleston
- Calhoun County Sheriff – Matthews
- City of Columbia Police Department – Columbia
- Greenville Police Department – Greenville
- Beaufort Police Department – Beaufort
Once you have had a few forensic psychology jobs in South Carolina, you can use that experience to open your own independent practices and offer your services as a consultant.
Step 8. Complete 24 Hours of Continuing Education to Renew Your South Carolina License
The South Carolina Board requires you to renew your license every two years in order to keep working as a forensic psychologist. In order to renew your license, you will need to complete 24 hours of continuing education.
A minimum of 12 hours of continuing education credits must be completed from Category A activities, and a maximum of 12 continuing education credits can be earned from Category B activities.
Category A includes more formal activities, such as:
- Completing a graduate course
- Completing an APA-approved internship training program
- Attending any seminar or workshop offered by the APA, APA-approved sponsors, or the South Carolina Psychological Association
- Teaching a graduate course
- Publishing a scholarly work
Category B includes less formal activities, such as:
- Peer review or supervision
- Publishing a scholarly work in a non-refereed publication
- Reading of professional journals
Once you’ve completed all of your continuing education, you can renew your license online.